I like the weird stuff. I have a Jeep Forward Control crew cab because my dad had an FC150 when I was a kid and because they are weird. I once built a Jeep with two grilles just to be different. It was very different, but it still worked great off-road. I like the Jeep Commandos, but I like the ’72-’73 one with the weird grille. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know, I just do. I am also a huge fan of Unimogs even though they are nothing more than a glorified Mercedes tractor.
So when the guys at Hot Rod magazine started doing their annual Dare to Be Different issue with a variety of wacky cool hot rods I realized we had to do the same thing. But unlike a hot rod, which just has to go fast and look cool, a 4x4 has to be able to perform off-road first of all and look cool second. Plus it’s harder to build an unusual 4x4 than your run-of-the-mill 4x4. The aftermarket makes it easy to buy quality parts and bolt them in, especially if you own a Polaris RZR, Jeep Wrangler, or Ford Raptor. In fact, those three trucks seem to have the off-road aftermarket wrapped up, and for good reason. But there is one problem. They are everywhere, and some folks like their 4x4s to stand out amongst the herd.
For example, the Jeep Forward Control on the cover this month isn’t there just because I like FCs. It’s there because it was the most talked about truck at this year’s SEMA Show. Mark (the owner) will drive it daily and will wheel it hard (eventually, after the new rubs off it a little) as any Jeep should be. Plus it’s totally wacky-looking and attracts people like a train wreck. A bright green train wreck on tracks, with a Hemi.
So I want to see your latest outside the box creations. Send me that pickup with the engine mounted in the bed, or the rock buggy with Kubota tractor axles, or maybe your Chevy Blazer that was a low rider but which now uses all that uptravel to stuff big tires while going fast off-road. Or do you have a total sleeper that looks like a stock 4x4 barn-find camper shell and all but which in fact hides a full-blown trophy truck suspension underneath that patina’d body so you can bomb through the dirt and still park it outside the taco stand without attracting attention. Why not steal an idea from a hot rod builder and construct a 4x4 that fulfills some trumped-up story. For example, build the period-correct CJ Rubicon mule that never was. Or a fake factory-built early mini Blazer that was supposedly designed to compete with the early Bronco prior to the fullsize K5’s production. Or what about that elusive Super Duty–based late-model Ford Bronco HD? It was never made, but that doesn’t mean you can’t build one from scratch and concoct a story to make it believable.
Oddities and freak shows add spice to the off-road scene, but remember the golden rule for any off-road project: It has to work first and look good second.